I heard a new word this weekend. At least new to me, and yet this simple word explains so much about the rights and wrongs of human history.
The word is "haole" and is pronounced "howly".
The context in which I heard it for the first time was a story of the reaction of the Hawaiian natives to the arrival of the white man on their great wooden ships. It was both a first impression and a response to the actions of these unwelcome explorers that says so much about our often tragic human history.
The word means, in variations and in other cultures, without color, without a spirit and/or without a soul.
When the Hawaiian's saw what these white men did to their culture, the women of their society, their land, their sacred traditions and their psyche, they rightly branded them to be without a soul.
My immediate thought as I listened to this story was that my impression of one of life's great wrongs, prejudice, may not be as complete as I had thought. I had always attributed prejudice to ignorance and greed, fear and selfishness, protectionism and power. But I think I missed something in my own analysis, lack of a spirit, a soul and color.
Now I don't mean color in terms of skin tone, although that is certainly how things have lined up, again in many variations. I mean color in relation to the soul and spirit of a person. I believe people with a well exercised spirit and soul are people of color in the greater sense.
In opposite to prejudice, or being a haole, people of spirit and soul substitute being informed and sharing for ignorance and greed; they substitute courage and selflessness for fear and selfishness; and they protect the greater good and use their power to help others rather than isolating and alienating others.
When I look back on history, and in particular our American history in this regard, I know what the cold business mechanics of slavery were in its time, but I can never understand why those who practiced it could not see the utter devastation it wrought upon an innocent people who only wanted the same things from life anyone else did. How those soulless people could put their hands on the same Bible as the Abolitionists and feel grace is beyond me. How they could cause a united nation to go to civil war to keep a sinful system intact and how that prejudice carried forward after their cause was defeated is beyond me. It can only be that they were, and some are still, haoleies.
I am always hopeful for a better day, and that day will only come when the battle of diversity is won by people of spirit, of soul and of color.
Brit Brodeur: Photo link and credit